So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me more than these? He said to him, Yes…
And why should Christ ask that question? Did not He know whether Simon loved Him or not? Certainly He did, for He knew all things. Then what could be His object in thus catechising Peter? Evidently, He wished to teach him a lesson of some kind or other. He wished to remind him of his former denial, and admonish him never to do the like again. Mark the reply. Peter has learned his weakness by that ignominious fall which he had, and dares not say he loves Jesus more than others; he is not willing to repeat his former assertion, "I will lay down my life for Thy sake;" he can only say, "Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee." The question being put the second time seems to have this import — "Are you sure, Simon, son of Jonas, that you love Me; for, you remember, you once professed that attachment, and then belied your words." What bitter recollections of his former treachery must have rushed at that moment over Peter's mind! No wonder Peter was grieved and humbled.
I. Concerning THE NATURE OF THE BELIEVER'S LOVE TO CHRIST.
1. In the first place, it is of Divine origin. It is a truth which the Christian ought never to forget, that he is indebted to God for everything good that he possesses: for every emotion of penitence, for every ray of hope, for every exercise of faith, for every heavenly aspiration, for every throb of love. Man made man a sinner, but man never made man a saint. That belongs to God. I know there are some who maintain that natural man is not so bad after all. Some say that regeneration is not a new creation, but only the development of an old, inward germ, which was left after the fall. That may be the teaching of pride and reason, but it is not that of Scripture or of human experience. If we had no other argument to prove that regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit, that is sufficient — that man, in his natural state, hates Christ, and yet is brought sometimes to love Him. The power that can produce such a change must be Divine.
2. But, again, the believer's love to Christ is unquenchable; the same power which creates it, sustains it in existence, just as those same forces in nature, warmth, and sunlight, and gentle showers, which cause the seed to burst, also nourish it, and carry it forward from bursting to budding, from budding to blossoming, and from that to the yielding of the golden fruit. I do not say the believer's love is never feeble; in some instances, alas! it is never anything more. I do not say it is always in healthful exercise. Even Peter may deny his Lord. I do not say that it never grows dim, for, just as the ancient crown of Scotland once lay so long under ground that it lost its lustre, so all religious graces, by too much contact with sin and worldliness, lose their brightness. Are you mourning, because your love is faint? It is right for you to mourn, but not to despond, for, if the plant be genuine, it will not die, however much it may droop.
3. The Christian's love for Christ, once more, is superlative. He loves Jesus more than anything else; he loves Him more than he loves all things else. What, then, shall we say of that man who manifestly loves the things of the world more than Christ? Do you call such a man a Christian? Why, he lacks the grandest element of Christianity, which is that love for Jesus which absorbs and controls every other love. Why, Brutus loved justice so much, that he would not spare his own son when he had forfeited his life. The Spartan mother loved bravery so much, that she said to her boys, as they went out to the wars, "Bring back your shields, or be brought upon them;" and shall the believer be unwilling to make a sacrifice for Christ, equally great? A man must love Him, so as to be willing to do that for Him which others can do from a worldly motive, before he can be a true Christian.
II. In the second place, let us notice SOME OF THE REASONS WHY THE BELIEVER LOVES CHRIST.
1. One good reason, I think, is because Christ loves him. Concerning His affection for His people, there can be no mistake; they are so dear to Him, so much a part of Him, that they are said to be the branches of which He is the vine.
2. Again, the Christian loves Christ by reason of His lovely character. The patriarchs and prophets were men of great virtues, but none of them could be said to be perfect. All suns have their spots, except that Sun of Righteousness; we shall find no blemish there. Have you never noticed how Scripture labours to set forth the beauties of Christ's character; the fairest objects in nature are employed to symbolize it. There is the rose; other flowers are beautiful, but, after all, she is the queen. Could the most cunning workman contrive anything half so beautiful? Why, no artist can paint it, in all its fairness. What tender leaves! What exquisite colour! What variety of tint! What a wealth of fragrance! How it fills the air with perfumes, and fairly charms the senses! Christ is called the Rose of Sharon. Oh, what humility was His. This was His most prominent trait. He never did anything for display; He was not fond of shows. Man must have his jewels, and his glitter, and his trinkets, his gilded equipages, and triumphal processions. Not so with Christ; His palace was a cottage; His royal bed was a manger, His state carriage was an ass's colt; His body-guard were poor fishermen. If man had been going to make a world, he would have had all the beauties visible to the naked eye. Not so with God. He has concealed much more than He has brought to light. The dew-drop perched upon the morning flower is a fine little gem, but what has it concealed from the naked eye? Put it under the microscope and see. In that single drop, a thousand million living creatures swarm, each one of them as much the object of God's regard as the largest world that rolls in space. The human frame is wonderful to look at; dissect it, and you find such beauty and harmony in its mechanism, such skill and contrivance, as astonish the philosopher as well as the savage. Let a sunbeam be shot into a dark room, and if, just then, the eyes of a blind man could be opened, the sight of that golden ray of light would fill him with joy. "What a beautiful thing!" he would exclaim. A beautiful thing! So it is; but what do you suppose God has concealed in that sunbeam? Pass it through a prism, and lo! what revelations! Why, you get the seven colours of the rainbow! And thus is it generally in nature: the dross is on the surface; if there are any gems, humility conceals them. In the character of Christ how much is manifest, and yet how much more must be concealed! If His love, His humility, His meekness, His patience, His forbearance, His consistency were such as could call forth the admiration even of His enemies, how much must there be behind these to confirm and strengthen the affection of His friends! And yet we are told the time is coming when we shall see Him as He is. All the seraph tongues in heaven could not describe it, and eternity will not give us half time enough in which to admire and adore it.
3. The last reason why we should love Christ, is because of His sufferings and death, and the blessings procured thereby. And now, as the result of His mediatorial work, what do we have We, who believe, have justification, for one thing; and what does that mean? It means that the sinner is free from the curse of the law. And we have adoption, for another thing; and what does that mean? It means that we can cry, Abba, Father! and feel that God is our Father, and that we are HIS children. We have sanctification, for another thing; and what does that mean? It means that we are free from that which blasted Eden and the world, which ruined man and unchained the forked lightnings of Divine justice, which brought death into the world and every pang of woe. It means that we are dying to sin, and living unto righteousness. Such are some of the blessings procured by Christ for His people. It is not strange, then, that they love Him; but oh, sinner, it is the strangest thing in the world that you do not ]eve Him too.
III. Finally, THE MANIFESTATIONS OF THIS PRINCIPLE OF LOVE.
1. It will show itself, in the first place, by communion with Christ.
2. Love to Christ will manifest itself again, in a desire to be like Him. "O that I were a Wellington, or a Bonaparte!" says the warrior. "O that I were a Praxiteles!" says the sculptor. "O that I were an Angelo, or a Correggio!" says the painter. "O that I were a Homer, or a Milton!" says the poet. But what says the Christian? "O that I could be very unlike myself, and very much like Christ! O that I could put off this old man, and put on the Lord Jesus!"
3. Love to Christ will show itself in a disposition to serve Him.
4. Let me, then, say, in conclusion, that love to Christ will manifest itself in a willingness to suffer for Him.
(H. D. Northrop.)
Parallel VersesKJV: So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
WEB: So when they had eaten their breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I have affection for you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs."